Bill Russell on young stars

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
2:33
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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Bill Russell tells NBA.com that he is not yet back on the golf course, but will be in six weeks or so after undergoing open heart surgery to repair a faulty valve about three weeks ago.

His condition, he says, is not serious, because he does not drink or smoke, and has lived a very healthy life.

In the ensuing conversation, Russell discusses his health, his charitable efforts, and today's NBA.

He quickly begins mocking the idea that one could compare players across generations -- so no, he won't pick sides in the Dream Team vs. Team USA 2012 debate. He discusses topics such as Ray Allen in Miami, and what Red Auerbach told the team in training camp. One of the most interesting parts of the conversation comes, however, when he's asked about the players who do the best job thinking the game. This is his response:
Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Those guys all know what they're doing. They go out to do things, not to see what's going on.

What I admire about Kevin Durant is that he even though he's the leading scorer, he's not always the first option. And that's unusual for an elite scorer because they are usually the first option. Kevin gets his points within the flow of the offense. I don't recall seeing him calling for the ball.

There are probably a dozen-and-a-half guys who know how to play.

Later he adds:
I always look at the guys when they do their best, does it help the team. There are some guys who can have a tremendous night statistically and their team loses.

Players today such as Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, LeBron, these guys are first and foremost team guys. A player who doesn't get much attention and is one of my favorites to watch is Joakim Noah. The Bulls don't utilize some of his skills. Not only is he a good rebounder but he's an excellent passer. A good passer is more important to a team than a good shooter on offense.

Henry Abbott | email

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